A MAJOR HAPPENING; Bellerive Country Club Set to Host Another of Golf's Championships; 74th SENIOR PGA CHAMPIONSHIP AT BELLERIVE

By Dan O'Neill | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), May 19, 2013 | Go to article overview

A MAJOR HAPPENING; Bellerive Country Club Set to Host Another of Golf's Championships; 74th SENIOR PGA CHAMPIONSHIP AT BELLERIVE


Dan O'Neill, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


It would be accepted golf talk to predict Bellerive will present a difficult challenge for the field of the 74th Senior PGA Championship.

Then again people have crashed and burned at the club. No, literally.

In July, 1955, Albert Seawell Jr., a test pilot for McDonnell Aircraft Corp., lost power in his Demon F3H-1N fighter jet and crashed into the 13th green on the golf course shortly after takeoff. Tragically, Seawell was killed as the plane exploded and burned on impact.

The asterisk is, the club was located in a different part of town back then, close to Lambert Field where Seawell took off. But you get the point.

"Bellerive is an excellent course," defending Senior PGA Championship winner Roger Chapman said, after trying his luck on media day at Bellerive in late April. "I'm sure that when it's time for the Championship, it will be in tip-top condition.

"I know my counterparts on the Senior European Tour are champing at the bit because they haven't played since last December."

If so, historic Bellerive should give them plenty to champ on. For starters, the field for golf's next major championship in 2013, which begins practice rounds on Tuesday at the club, will be formidable.

All the gang is here. The pass list includes local favorites like Hale Irwin, Jay Haas and Tom Wargo. It includes the best the Champions Tour has to offer, with household names like Fred Couples, Fred Funk and Tom Lehman along with former Bellerive champions Nick Price and Peter Jacobsen.

Get out your scrapbook and check them off. Forty two of the 154 players entered made the cut at Bellerive's 1992 PGA Championship won by Price. The week also will consummate a dynamic marriage of community leaders and corporate sponsors, supporting big-time golf in St. Louis and using it as a charitable vehicle to grow the game.

"You see great local ties from both sides of the river and throughout the Show-Me State for this event," said Gov. Jay Nixon, who has a son playing college golf. "We are very proud to be hosting the Senior PGA Championship. We also are deeply appreciative of corporate sponsorship that we've gotten here.

"I cannot say enough about the people who have taken time to raise money for charity surrounding this event. The PGA has been a true leader in this country, leaving towns better than they found them."

Even in golf terms, the championship will leave St. Louis and Bellerive a better place than it found them. The Senior PGA Championship is a table-setter for the 100th playing of the PGA Championship in 2018, which also will be contested at Bellerive. St. Louis not only gets a golf fix this week, it gets something for which to look forward.

And as they arrive on Monday and Tuesday, the illustrious group of players should find the Robert Trent Jones-created test to be worthy. When Jacobsen won the 2004 Senior Open at Bellerive, he did so at 12 under par, nipping Irwin by a single stroke. Two years later, the grounds underwent extensive nips and tucks, with Rees Jones supervising the golf-related renovations.

When the club welcomed the 2008 BMW Championship, the impact of the makeover was governed by weather. Torrential rains washed out the opening day of the tournament and turned Bellerive's big greens into fluffy, soft pillows. Camilo Villegas captured the championship at 15 under par. He was just one of 42 players to finish in red numbers, one of nine to be double-digits under par. Red was the new black.

With considerations to the weather, the PGA Tour provided a generous set up. The 6th hole at Bellerive, which in 1965 established itself as one of the most difficult strokes-to-par holes in U.S. Open history, was competed as a 156-yard par-3 at the BMW. That's giving it away.

Things will be different this time. The course will be played at 6,960 yards and par 71. The 10th hole will be a par 4 at 475 yards. The 4th hole will be competed as a 550-yard par 5. …

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